A beginner’s guide to cycling your first sportive (long distance)

It’s decided: this year, you will cycle with your first “sportive” – the official term used to define a non competitive (not a race) long distance cycling event, a cycling challenge over the 100km or mile mark.
Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, you probably have no idea what you are in for. This article will introduce with with humour to the wonderful world of cycling, full of MAMILs – Middle Age Men In Lycra– fanatic amateur cyclists, or, as the Oxford dictionary defines the word since its entry in 2014 “A middle-aged man who is a very keen road cyclist, typically one who rides an expensive bike and wears the type of clothing associated with professional cyclists“.
When I set myself to complete, Vatternrundan, the largest sportive in the world (30.000 participants biking a 300km loop around a lake, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Sweden), my knowledge of biking was limited to the occasional tourist exploration and the standing bike of the spinning class. In this article, I am bursting myths and whispering inadmissible secrets – this is all I wished I had known when I signed up for my first long distance race plus a few funny anecdotes about my journey from newbie to collecting enough knowledge to write this how to guide.


Table of contents:

1. How to choose your sportive
2. Cycling gear:
– Bike and Equipement
– What to wear when cycling
3. Training for your first sportive:
– Setting up a training planning
– Other tips
4. Getting ready for race day:
– Last week before the race
– Don’t show up uninformed
– Race day: getting to the finish line
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Cycling the Tour de Yorkshire

So on a Friday after work, we put the bikes in the car and headed north for a week-end that will make our muscles burn. Since we decided to relocate to the UK we have been planning to go on week-end adventure to discover our new home country. After reading about the Tour de Yorkshire in Alastair Humphrey ‘s  book “Microadventures” we knew that this was the prefect combo of exploration and training for our big biking challenge, a month later.

On two wheels, around Yorkshire!

Yorkshire’s area got a tourist boost when Tour de France crossed it in 2014, and we decided to roughly cycle the same route as the peloton did. The countryside is lovely, there is not much traffic and the roads are in good condition. Fun ahead! We will start and end in the small town of Harrogate.

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From newbie to cycling a 300km sportive in 6 months

vatternrundan_medalI woke up wondering if I had been dreaming. Did I really finished the long sportive that I had been training for? Was it all over? The medal on the bedside table, shinning under the morning sun, was leaving no doubt. I did it!
For me, Vätternrundan was not a 300km recreational ride around a big lake in Sweden, it was a 6 months race that required more than 1500km of riding and total of 90h on the bike.

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Mountain biking in the Atacama desert

Biking in the Atacama desert was one of my most highly anticipated adventure of the trip. Picturing majestic canyons, colorful rock formations and gigantic duns of sand, I couldn´t wait to be there. It didn´t disappoint. Get on your bike, this half day self guided tour to Vallee de la Luna at sunset will delight even those who have never done mountain biking before!

Admire the impressive amphitheater

A good way to discover Vallee de la Luna on your own

Renting a bike gives you the opportunity to explore the beautiful Valle de la Luna on your own, and cheaper (around CH$4000 to rent the bike) than if you will book a tour or rent a car. Non technical but sometimes a bit tough -steep- with landscapes rewarding the braves at every turn. At the end of the day, you will have biked in the driest desert in the world!

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